Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A range review of Brown Bear 7.62x39mm HP ammunition

I recently had some time to spend on the range, and a friends Winchester .22 that needed to be sighted in. I'd been told that a local gun shop had a fair supply of 7.62x39, so I took along my vintage Chinese Type 56 just for fun.

The shop did indeed have a few cases of Brown Bear 7.62x39 hollow point ammunition, but at ruinous prices. $9 a box! I bought only two boxes, in the interest of a range report for my readers. Okay.... and because I wanted to play with the SKS a little.

The Brown Bear ammo, so named after the brown lacquer that coats it's steel case, is a product of the Barnaul munitions plant in Russia. Created by Aleksander 1st in 1869, the plant has supplied Russia, and now the world, with ammunition ever since
. Moved under wartime pressure several times, the plant settled in Barnaul and a month later was supplying Soviet forces through the rest of the war. First begun in St. Petersburg by Czar Aleksander as a royal ammunition plant, it's now adopted the name of it's home city and become the Barnaul ammunition company.

This new crop of Brown Bear ammunition comes in three choices. Full metal jacket, soft point meant for hunting, and hollow point meant for target shooting. It's interesting to note that Barnaul specifies the hollow point round as suitable for light game as well.

The case is steel, and coated with brown lacquer. The lacquer is thought by some to foul chambers with a sticky residue. In my shooting with the Russian import ammunition I have not noticed
this happening. Then again, I have fired only a few hundred rounds of the ammunition in a few rifles, and none in pistols.

The bullet appears to be gilded mild steel, with a lead core and a largish hollow point. The hollow point does not serve duty as a means to expansion, as the jacket is tough and not scored to tear back in petals. On impact, the Brown Bear hollow point is far more likely to fold over and destabilize the bullet dramatically. In match bullets like the Sierra boat tail hollow point, the precision hollow point helps balance the bullet and stabilize it in flight. Somehow, I doubt the Brown Bear hollow point is precise enough to have the same effect, but I did not notice this HP ammunition to be any less accurate than the FMJ either.

In shooting, the Chinese type 56 SKS functioned perfectly with the Brown Bear
offering. Feeding was slick, even flawless, and it shot to point of aim with the military sights on the rifle.

Accuracy was acceptable, although not stellar. The 123 grain hollow point bullets all fell into an average of 2.5" at fifty yards, with no fliers that couldn't be explained away
as the shooters fault.

Ejection was slightly erratic, with some cases flying forward, some to the rear, and
some straight overhead. This may have been more a function of the rifle, although it has ejected more consistently with other brands of ammunition. I can tell you one thing... it doesn't help accuracy testing to have a hot steel casing bounce off your skull a few times.

All in all.... the Brown Bear ammunition is exactly what it appears to be. Decent quality ammunition for everyday shooting and target practice. Match ammunition it's not, but it was not intended as such. Function is excellent, it's reliable, and accuracy is acceptable. Considering it's pretty much the only 7.62x39mm game in town just now... it's not too bad.


Johnnyreb™ said...

I have some older stuff, 123gr. HP from Barnaul that i've been going to do the same thing with. It's obviously been in the gun cabinet for awhile as it still has the $2 price tag on it ...

My oldest daughters Ruger P95 loved the old 115gr. brown Bear in 9mm. To bad I can't find it anymore as it would consistently shoot into 3" at 25 yards.

Sailorcurt said...

Does the brown bear shoot as dirty as Wolf?

I generally use Wolf 7.62x39 but it is the dirtiest shooting ammo I've ever used. It takes forever to get the bore clean after shooting a hundred rounds of that.

If the brown bear is cleaner, I may consider changing, even if it is a little more expensive.

Carteach0 said...

Johnnyreb, AIM has Wolf 9mm right now, the same as the brown bear for all intents. Best hurry though....

Sailorcurt, Yup, the brown bear is dirty stuff. I doubt Barnaul uses different powder or primer between the rounds.

Anonymous said...

I bought some boxes of Silver Bear SP hunting ammunition for my CZ carbine, but cannot comment on effectiveness of the bullet - no 'animal testing' was done, durn it. But in sighting in, ammunition was accurate for brush ranges, about 2" 5 shot groups at 75 yards. Still wondering about bullet expansion though. And yes, pretty dirty. Unlaquered cases though was the selling point in this case.

Why this ammo - had a BAD experience with Winchester grey box SP, experiencing many misfires out of the CZ. No confidence whatsoever was gained - thats the ONLY time I've ever had so much trouble from Winchester in any firearm. Likely just that particular box - but would you trust ammo like that in YOUR firearm when cards are on the table?

Thanks for the great post Carteach.

KelTex said...

$9.00/box; I still have most of my 900-1000 rounds still sealed in the moisture-proof cases that I bought ~10 years ago. (I don't shoot my SKS much.) IIRC, I paid in the vicinity of $90 for the lot. @ $9.00/box, that's over $400 worth of ammunition.

I'm tired of sellers taking advantage of the situation to raise profits like this. I chose to stop purchasing from CheaperThanDirt after they started charging $60 (and then $70) per 50 round box of aluminum cased .380 fmj.

Crucis said...

I won't shoot any lacquered ammo. When Wolf Ammo started coming in, I bought several boxes of their .223 for my AR. Up to that point, I shot WWB, PMC and Remington almost exclusively.

So, at the range, I loaded a 20rd mag of Wolf in my nice clean AR. On the 10th round, that lacquered case would not eject. It was glued solidly in the camber. I ruined a nice cleaning rod hammering that case out and I'll never shoot lacquered ammo again. I've had no problem with brass nor unlacquered ammo.

Thinking it might have been a fluke, I tried another box some years later and the same happened---a jammed case in just a few rounds out of a mag.

Never again.

Matt said...

I believe the 7.62X39mm hollow point ammunition was designed to improve accuracy and to better serve as a counter sniper round for security forces. I haven't seen any difference in accuracy between the FMJ and HP myself.

I have used PMC 7.62X39mm soft point on smallish deer and coyote at relatively short range. It i devastating. The jacket is thin and the bullet expands dynamically if it hits the least amount of resistance.

I have been warned not to shoot laquered ammunition in my AR-15. The laquer isn't inherently bad, but in a system that gets hot like the AR it can get sticky. I'd keep it and any steel cased ammuniton out of chambers that are on the minimum side of specifications.

Steve said...

I purchased some Brown Bear 7.62x39 from AIM Surplus last month. When it arrived, I was surprised to see that it was polymer coated, not lacquered. It seems several plants make the Brown Bear and at least one has begun to ship with polymer coating.